Navigating the realm of health care

Mr. Jones is an 83-year-old widower living in his own home. When asked, he’ll tell you he is doing “fair to middling.” He’ll go on to tell you his legs are tired and wobbly and he doesn’t get out as much as he used to.

He has a scooter, which gets him to town and back, but his vision is getting worse and he’s not sure how much longer he can safely use it. He likes listening to books on tape and watching sports.

He has children but they all live out of town; they worry about him. Mr. Jones has Lifeline, a housekeeper to clean every two weeks, regular meal delivery and relies on friends to help with grocery shopping and other tasks.

Mr. Jones knows that he needs a little more help to stay in his home and is a little worried about his future care needs but doesn’t know where to go to find information or what’s available in his community.

Maybe one of your parents is like Mr. Jones. Or perhaps you feel a little (or a lot!) like Mr. Jones.

Either way, there comes a time when an aging loved one requires more support and care to keep them as independent as possible. For some of us, caregiving becomes a part-time job and a full-time worry.

Knowing that you or your aging loved one needs more help is one thing. Navigating your way through the health-care maze is another. Health care is very complicated and it can be challenging for seniors and family caregivers to understand the ins and outs.

Many of us are confused as to whom to call to find assistance to help ourselves or an aging loved one manage at home.

It’s also tricky to figure out what services are needed, eligibility for publicly funded home support and where to go to access services in the community.

A good sailor knows how to use their map and compass to navigate the open seas. The same applies to caregivers navigating the health-care system.

It’s timely for me to write another series on system navigation.  I’ve just recently been informed about a recent survey conducted by CARP and the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research. They looked at health-care navigation and found:

• 81 per cent of Canadians find the health care system too complicated, and 78 per cent of Canadians agree that patient navigation is a challenge

• Almost eight out of 10 Canadians said that caregiving was the most difficult challenge

• Canadians identified managing their chronic diseases as the most important patient navigation challenge.

So with this in mind, let’s pull out our maps and compasses and we’ll tackle the public health-care system together and review what it offers and how to access services.


For more information, visit and